Poll gives new record for support for True Finns
Support for the right-of-centre populist True Finns party, led by MEP Timo Soini has reached a new record.
According to a poll commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat and conducted by TNS Gallup, 16.2 per cent of voters would vote for the True Finns if the Parliamentary elections were held now.
The poll is the first in which the True Finns overlap with the Social Democratic Party within the margin of error, which is two percentage points.
The poll gives the opposition Social Democrats 18.2 per cent support. Getting only slightly higher marks is the main government partner, the Centre Party, with 18.3 per cent.
The National Coalition Party remains the most popular, with 21 per cent support.
In the single digits are the Green League, with 8.8 per cent, and the Left Alliance, with 8.1 per cent.
The True Finns have seen their support grow by more than seven points from last summer.
In the same period of time, changes in support for other parties have been in the neighbourhood of no more than one or two percentage points.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled for April 17th - less than three months from now.
In other parties, the surge of the True Finns is being analysed closely.
Last year the feeling among the traditional parties was that the True Finns would not manage to get a sufficiently reliable group of candidates to make good on their popularity in the polls.
Anonymous political sources are now telling Helsingin Sanomat that the array of candidates for the True Finns is unexpectedly impressive.
The top three groups - the main government parties, the Centre and the National Coalition, and the largest opposition group, the Social Democrats, emphasise that their campaign focuses on “the issues” with carefully weighed political content and real alternatives.
The True Finns’ competitors question the credibility of the alternatives offered by the True Finns.
According to Esa Suominen, the head of the political department of the Social Democrats, the new supporters of the True Finns can be divided into three groups.
One group is the “general populists”, for whom protest is the main issue. They see the party as a way of channelling their feelings of frustration. One factor is that the parties of the left have lost supporters who are disenchanted in the wake of structural change in the industrial society.
He says that other True Finns supporters are from the base of the party’s predecessor, the Rural Party, with concerns for the interests of low-income Finns, and for whom the Centre Party is too bourgeois.
The National Coalition Party has also lost some of its supporters who emphasise traditional conservative values.
The SDP sees the growing support of the True Finns to be self-nurturing: the higher the support figures get, the easier it is to recruit new supporters.
National Coalition Party secretary Taru Tujunen also feels that the supporters of the True Finns constitute a very diverse group - much like the National Coalition itself.
She feels that general dissatisfaction attracts people to the True Finns.
“The people do not vote wrong. We are not fighting against the True Finns: we are fighting for the National Coalition Party.”
Tujunen sees the immigration issue as one factor, but not the only one, which has boosted the popularity of the True Finns.
“Responding to questions of political content, and getting them across better to the public”, is how Tujunen says the National Coalition Party plans to rise to the challenge posed by the True Finns.
The poll was taken between January 1st and January 24th, involving interviews with 2,346 people from around Finland, except the Åland Islands.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Survey indicates True Finns are taking votes from Centre Party in Lapland (18.1.2011)
YLE poll: True Finns continue to gain ground (31.12.2010)
Magazine claims True Finns are attracting supporters from all three large parties (29.10.2010)
NEWS ANALYSIS: The True Finns. Not just populists any more (7.9.2010)